White House: Evidence against Assad not ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ but passes ‘common-sense test’



Published time: September 09, 2013 00:16

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) meets with National Security staff in the Oval Office in this White House photograph taken on March 8, 2012 and obtained on June 13, 2013.(Reuters / Pete Souza)

The White House says it has no “irrefutable” evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad was behind the August gas attack in a Damascus suburb, but that a “strong common-sense test irrespective of the intelligence” suggests the government is responsible.

“We’ve seen the video proof of the outcome of those
attacks,”
White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough told
CNN, speaking of the multiple clips which show victims of the
suspected sarin attack in a Damascus suburb on August 21.

“All of that leads to a quite strong common-sense test
irrespective of the intelligence that suggests that the regime
carried this out. Now do we have a picture or do we have
irrefutable beyond-a-reasonable-doubt evidence? This is not a
court of law and intelligence does not work that way,”
he
said.

McDonough made appearances on leading US talk shows in an effort
to garner support for proposed military action against Syria
ahead next week’s congressional vote in which most lawmakers seem
to be opposed to a US-led strike.

In an interview with NBC, the Chief of Staff stressed
that“nobody is rebutting the intelligence; nobody doubts the
intelligence.”

The US says it has intercepted conversations involving Syrian
officials during which they take responsibility for the attack.
However, Washington has not made the conversations public.

The Obama administration has also referred to its satellite and
signals intelligence, as well as military communications, as
proof that the regime was preparing to use poisonous gas just
days before the alleged attack took place.

Yet the administration has refused to let the public see the
evidence allegedly connecting Assad to the crime – even though
ample amounts of satellite imagery was released earlier by the US
in order to demonstrate the consequences of the attacks by the
Syrian regime’s military.

bodies of children wrapped in shrouds as Syrian rebels claim they were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces in eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21, 2013.(AFP Photo / Shaam News Network)

With the evidence at hand, experts are struggling to agree on
what really happened and are reluctant to place blame.

It is hard to explain why Assad would use chemical weapons on his
own people at a time when his troops were doing so well on the
ground – especially since UN observers were nearby at the time of
the attack — former British military officer Charles Heyman told
AP.

“We can’t get our heads around this – why would any commander
agree to rocketing a suburb of Damascus with chemical weapons for
only a very short-term tactical gain for what is a long-term
disaster,”
he said. Heyman edits ‘The Armed Forces of the
UK,’ an authoritative bi-annual review of British forces.

The death toll numbers released by the US were also questioned.
The Obama administration said that 1,429 people have died in 12
locations mostly east of Damascus. And although that number
closely corresponds with figures from the Western-backed Syrian
National Coalition, only 395 names of victims were released by
the organization upon request.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that it
counted victims by name and the current total is at 502. The
organization questioned the US numbers and asked the
administration for information regarding what the higher death
toll figure is based on.

At the same time, Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported that German
intelligence has evidence that Bashar Assad may not be personally
behind the chemical attack. He even blocked requests from his
military commanders to use chemical weapons, the German media
outlet reported, citing unidentified, high-level national
security sources.

The report is based on findings from phone calls intercepted by
German surveillance deployed off the Syrian coast and run by the
country’s BND intelligence service.

The Syrian president himself unexpectedly emerged to state his
case to a US audience during an interview to CBS, which is
scheduled to be aired on Monday.

“There has been no evidence that I used chemical weapons
against my own people,”
he was reported as saying.

The US has dismissed Assad’s comments.

“It doesn’t surprise us that someone who would kill thousands
of his own people, including hundreds of children with poison
gas, would also lie about it,”
deputy spokesperson at the
National Security Council, Bernadette Meehan, told NBC News.

US Secretary of State John Kerry also dismissed Assad’s
statements, saying on Sunday that “the evidence speaks for
itself.”
The comment was made during a meeting with
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas regarding the July 29
resumption of Israel-Palestine peace talks, Reuters reported.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.(AFP Photo / Alexander Nemenov)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Assad’s most powerful ally,
used the G20 summit in St. Petersburg to accuse the rebels of
staging the attack.

Putin stressed that setting precedents of military action outside
a UN Security Council resolution would mean that the world’s
smaller countries can no longer feel safe against the interests
of more powerful ones.

At the end of the summit, only 12 of the G20 countries supported
Washington’s position regarding a military intervention.

Republished from: RT